Monday, July 07, 2008

Marks and Spencer and Saving the Planet.

On Saturday afternoon I trudged wearily down the High Street of our nearby town and went into Marks and Spencer's food department. I needed something quick and delicious for the evening meal, it was late, the town was impossibly busy, and I was tired. There is no real car park in this particular Marks and Sparks. It is a town centre store with a single horrendous lane where you can pull in to pick up your shopping, if you are brave. Otherwise, it's a case of hauling everything with you to the nearest car park.
Now before I go any further, let me say that I'm all for recycling. My whole eBay business is based on recycling and nobody is happier than me to see a piece of lovely old linen being given a new lease of life, used and treasured by a new owner. I'm no fan of plastic bags either, having done a fair bit of sailing in my life, and seen the mess they make of certain West of Scotland beaches. I usually have a reusable shopping bag, and in fact the back of my car is always full of bags, wine carriers etc.
But on this occasion, I had nothing with me except my handbag. I filled a wire basket with more than I had intended of course. The delicious meal (Marks and Sparks food is undeniably good, though pricey) plus some strawberries, plus yoghurt and their strong leaf tea, of a kind which is getting harder and harder to find here in Scotland. I queued at the check-out and when I got there, the assistant said in what can only be described as accusing tones 'Don't you have your carrier bag with you?' This is what happens, you see. Our politicians used that horrible, hectoring, nannying tone, and it's infectious.
'Oh, no' I said, waking up from what had been a queue induced trance. 'I'm sorry. I don't.'
'Well' she said, 'Do you want a 5 pence carrier or a 15 pence carrier?'
I looked at my far too expensive shopping. I looked at her. I looked at the long queue behind me.
'Do you mean' I said, 'That you are proposing to charge me for a bag?'
'Yes' she said, a little smugly.
I did a very quick assessment of the situation. The long haul back up the town flashed before my eyes. The fact that I could buy just about everything on there in Morrisons, much more cheaply. The fact that I don't believe for one instant that Marks and Sparks really care all that much about saving the planet. The fact that they didn't have - for instance - brown bags for people who might have genuinely forgotten their reusable, environmentally friendly carriers. The fact that there was a long queue behind me. The fact that the assistant was unfriendly. It took seconds.
I said - quite politely, I think - 'In that case, I don't think I'll bother thank-you' turned on my heel and walked off. I could hear the assistant ringing for help, even as I left the store.
It was the single most satisfying thing I had done all weekend.
As I said at the start - I don't really hold with plastic carriers and often shop in Lidls, where the food is cheap and excellent, and where I am completely happy to trolley all my stuff to the car and pack it for myself in an assortment of bags and boxes.
But - here in the UK at least - environmentalism has infected some of our big commercial organisations with a kind of smug 'take it or leave it' attitude which sits very ill with the fact that they are expecting us to spend more and more of our hard earned cash.
It is exactly like a bunch of slightly overweight politicians who have just voted themselves a vast sum in additional 'expenses' presuming to lecture us on wasting our food....


Scottish Nanna said...

When I Lved in Aberdeen 47 years ago We had A marks and Spencers But they only sold Clothing I can remember Their clothing was good.In Australia we have special bags to take shopping but we always forget and leave them in the car The shops Still give you plastic Bags But that is going to stop soon and they are going to do it the same as Britain Have A nice week
Hugs Mary.

Anonymous said...

I so agree, My Marks did the same to me. I had a very expensive load of shopping and not only was I going to struggle with it I also had forgotten my carrier...........smug, yes they were. I also left my shopping and have not shopped there for food since.
Save the planet? look st their packaging etc.........they have seen this as a way of reducing costs and this is a contempt for their shoppers.
I like your site

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Thanks for your comment! I thought it might have happened to more than me. And you're right. If they really cared about the environment they would prune their packaging to a minimum - and treat their shoppers with a little more regard.

Anonymous said...

First I would like to say I really like your site and love to read the way your talk. I'm in America, some day I hope to visit Scotland any way here in America we are aware of recycling but all grocery stores, clothing, etc. use plastic bags that just set in the land fills forever. When I was a kid all used brown paper bags which is a lot better. I know you are complaining about the service & politicians but at least you are a step ahead of America. People here would probably complain to congress because they are to lazy to bring there own bags.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Thanks for your comments Tammy - and I do essentially agree about plastic bags and landfill. The problem with so many Marks and Spencer stores here though is that there is no parking space and they always overpack everything anyway, in lots of plastic! They say that brown bags are not environmentally friendly for some reason (can't remember why!!!) but I think it would do them no harm to have them for emergencies such as mine - discussing it with friends, we realised that we all tend to make 'impulse' purchases from M & S - we just happen to be passing the store on the way to somewhere else. On such occasions you don't always have a bag with you, so I reckon they are going to be losing a lot of custom if they don't come up with another solution - and brown bags would be a very good idea.
Hope you keep enjoying the blog!